ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The whistleblower who says he helped expose the alleged fraud and embezzlement at a well known charter school is now suing, saying he lost his job over it. Earlier this year the FBI raided Southwest Learning Center and the home of the now former administrator Scott Glasrud amid allegations millions of taxpayer dollars were misused and steered to Glasrud for his personal gain.
Mario Guggino was hired as the business manager for Southwest Learning Center and SAMS Academy in July 2013. A few weeks later, he went to an employee barbecue at head administrator Glasrud’s 10,000-square-foot home in the heights.
“It has a guest house, a large garage with, I believe, 12 or 13 cars,” he said. “His garage was filled with classic and exotic cars.”
Guggino said Glasrud’s lifestyle seemed lavish, even for Glasrud’s $240,000 public salary. He started digging deeper and says he found evidence of millions of dollars worth of embezzlement.
“There were shell companies, fraudulent vendors and ghost employees that were part of this scheme,” he said.
He says he also found evidence Glasrud, who founded the charter schools, was paying people who didn’t really work there.
“Ironically, we had a ‘substitute teacher,’ for example, that was the sommelier, or head wine steward for a high-end Las Vegas, Nevada restaurant,” he said.
He says he took the evidence to the FBI.
“The FBI at one point also asked me to cooperate with them and wear a recording device,” he said.
According to his lawsuit, Guggino also took part in an undercover FBI investigation into the school by making statements and providing records. After the raid, the Public Education Department announced that it would be taking over the charter school’s finances and according to Guggino’s lawsuit, he was pushed out of the position. He’s now suing the state and Southwest Learning Center.
This summer the FBI raided the schools, hauling out boxes of evidence. That investigation is still going on.
Glasrud resigned shortly after the raid. While a board approved a $75,000 payout, the PED suspended the payments while it conducts an ethics investigation. At this point, no criminal charges have been filed in this case.
A lawyer for Southwest Learning Center and SAMS Academy says Guggino was never fired, and that he’s welcome back from his leave of absence at any time. Guggino’s lawyer says he was essentially forced into an unpaid leave because the PED and school locked him out of the computer system, while expecting him to carry out his normal duties. Guggino also says he was forced to report to people who were being investigated by the FBI after they found out he was the whistleblower.
The PED wouldn’t answer questions about the lawsuit.
Glasrud’s lawyer didn’t return KRQE News 13’s request for comment.
The FBI does not comment on ongoing investigations, and wouldn’t confirm the details of the investigation.